Getting to the beginning

I made a fabric picture this morning.  The excuse was that I was supposed to be writing today, and doing something creative with my hands would free up my brain to be creative too.

Hmmm.

Unfortunately the hour and a half I’d spent beforehand on the phone to various unhelpful call centres meant that said brain was choked with words it only vaguely understood, like “router” and “splitter” and “ethernet”.  Thus, the only thing that’s been written so far today is this post.

How the day begins is so important.  I know this.  I know that the only way to write is to sit down and actually begin: begin at the beginning, and preferably begin at the beginning of the day.  Yet still I persist in taking half a day just to get to the beginning.

But a beginning is a beginning, however long it takes.  And it may not be much, but eventually it will be followed by a middle and an end.  They may be (who am I kidding – they will be) rough and imperfect, but they will be something to work with.  Unlike a potter, a writer has to make her clay before she can begin to shape it into its final form.

The beauty of the season

The hedgerows are broadcasting the abundance of harvest-time, laden with hips and haws, sloes and blackberries. Yet the whirr of my wheels as I pedal along, and the grasshoppers in the long grass, still sing of lazy summer days.   The sun paints a wash of late summer haze over the already-harvested fields, tinged with the unmistakable slant of autumn. Bronze, gold and brown mingle with the fading greens in the treetops.

Summer does not end.  It slides into autumn, or autumn slides into it, subtly, without you noticing, until the crisp mornings become cold and the sunshine weakens and loses its warmth.

This isn’t the setting for a story.

This is the beautiful story.

Every year.

Positive thinking and how to begin

Sometimes when you really read that inspiring quote, you find it doesn’t quite give the message you thought it did.  You know words are my thing – they have to be right!

Here’s one I found recently:

“If you must begin, then go all the way, because if you begin and quit, the unfinished business you have left behind you begins to haunt you all the time.”(Trungpa Rinpoche – I read this as an extract in a book that wasn’t the original source, so can’t tell you anything about him I’m afraid. But I’ve been pondering his words.)

At first I thought, “yes – encouragement to do, to move forward, to simply begin.”  And I think that’s probably how it was meant.  But then I read it again and it sounds a little threatening.  Surely, if unfinished business comes back to haunt you, it’s safer to not begin at all?  The advice sounds rather like we should only begin if we’re absolutely sure we can finish what we start – and how many of us can be sure of that?

But we do like to be sure, don’t we?  We want to know where we’re going before we set out.  Not only that, we want to know exactly how we’re going to get there.  So often we hear or read the advice (attributed to Laurence J Peter), “if you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

Maybe.  But somewhere else might turn out to be better!  And what happened to simply enjoying the journey?  Surely it’s better to just begin – to take that single step, write that first paragraph, pick up that piece of clay – and enjoy the adventure of the journey, rather than to sit and wait until every piece is meticulously planned?  Where’s the magic in that?

And, speaking of magic, here’s a much more uplifting piece of advice about beginnings which I think we should all follow, today:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
P.S. As an aside, that final quotation is often attributed to Goethe, but in looking it up just now to make sure I’d got it right, I discovered that he sort of wrote it, but mostly didn’t.  (I wouldn’t know; I’ve never read anything by Goethe any more than I’ve read Socrates.  I just like a good turn of phrase.)  Go here and here if you’re interested.

Ideas

A lot’s been written about ideas and where to find them.  I like this post, and this one (especially the thought of God getting in a huff, taking ideas off Michael Jackson and giving them to Prince!), but there are many more.

Hanging out the washing gets me every time – it’s a good job we have a stack of paper for writing shopping lists which lives just inside the back door, as I’m forever popping back in to jot down some phrase or other.

It’s difficult to make notes while riding a bike, but I need to put a notebook in my saddlebag to catch the butterfly ideas that follow me wherever I ride.  They have a habit of flying off to settle elsewhere by the time I get home.

I’ve used the word serendipity before, and make no apology for using it again.  As I said then, it’s a great word – and a great source of ideas.  Writing – and pretty much any creative endeavour – involves stitching together seemingly random thoughts, ideas, events, words… But you need another of my favourite words, intuition, to take advantage of it.

A few days ago I was reading a book (I can’t remember which, and it’s not really relevant as by the time we get to the end of this very long sentence we will be far away from the source anyway), which sent me off on a train of thought which, via Tai Chi and several other now-forgotten mental stepping stones, reminded me of another book, Chop Wood Carry Water, which I’d borrowed from a friend years ago but couldn’t remember much about, but I ordered it anyway because it felt like the right thing to do, and then promptly forgot about it until it arrived in the post today while I was writing a series of blog posts about beginnings, at which point I opened it to a random page (doesn’t everyone do that? – that and start reading at the end!) which happened to be in a chapter stuffed full of great quotes and insights about…beginnings.

Intuition told me I wanted to read the book again; then serendipity worked its magic.  Good job I was listening.

Beginning

“In creating, the only difficult thing is to begin” (James Russell Lowell)

That’s not quite the full quote but, rather appropriately I suppose, I love this beginning part best.

We want to write. We know we can.

Sometimes we even do it.

Then – we have nothing to write. Or the rabbit hutch needs cleaning. Or we need to think about what comes next. Or we decide to bake instead. Or we need to go to town for something which can’t possibly wait. Or we answer the phone to someone we don’t want to talk to. Or we find ourselves roaming the internet or raiding the bookshelves and reading other people’s words for hours…

Today I had five hours in which to write. I’ve managed two, which is two more than yesterday. I call that a victory, of sorts, but it would have been so much better if it hadn’t been so hard to begin.

What I’ve learnt today, though – yet again – is that beginning is like a hump in the road. Once you’re over it, the going is easier. It may still be bumpy and full of potholes, but you’re over that first hump and rolling forwards.  So the quicker you get over the hump, the better!